The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
Giving up a multi-goal lead after playing what might have been their best period of the season is going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the Washington Capitals. They hope that returning home and taking out their collapse against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night on the Los Angeles Kings at Capital One Arena on Saturday will cleanse the palate.
The Caps, 2-1-0 in games played in the United States (0-2-0 in games played in Canada), will be facing their second Pacific Division opponent of the young season, having defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 6-4, in their most recent win. The Kings will be wrapping up a five-game road trip with their visit to Washington, having gone 3-1-0 in their first four games of the trip.
The Kings might be a largely unknown collection of players to Caps fans, so perhaps it would not be too much of a surprise that their leading goal scorers on their road trip to date are forward Gabriel Vilardi and defenseman Matt Roy, each with three goals in four road contests. Roy is the older of the two (27 years old) and the more experienced (starting his fifth NHL season with 212 regular season games played, all with Los Angeles). His three goals in six games overall to date are just one short of his career high of four, set with the Kings in 70 games of the 2019-2020 season, his first full season in the NHL.
Roy is one of those players who might be considered an overachiever, having been a seventh-round draft pick (194th overall) by the Kings in the 2015 Entry Draft. And even being selected at that slot might have been a bit of a reach, his 0-9-9 scoring line in 36 games at Michigan Tech in the NCAA not being the usual indicator of a bright NHL future. But he did improve his offensive numbers in two more seasons with the Huskies, going 12-34-46, plus-30, combined over those two seasons before turning pro. In three seasons with the Ontario Reign of the AHL he was 12-25-47, minus-10, in 102 games. I was in that last season with Ontario, in 2018-2019, he made his NHL debut with the Kings, going 2-4-6, minus-1, in 25 games. He became a full-time player the following season and has been a regular on the Kings’ blue line since. A player described as a “steady, reliable minute-munching defenseman” in the TSN.ca scouting report, Roy is 0-3-3, even, in five career games against the Caps.
Vilardi, a 23-year old in his fourth NHL season, has a superior draft pedigree to that of Roy, taken with the 11th overall pick by the Kings in the 2017 Entry Draft after going 29-32-61, plus-13, in 49 games with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 2016-2017. After another season in Canadian junior, that with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, in which he went 22-36-58, plus-14, in 32 games, he joined the Ontario Reign for the 2018-2019 AHL season. Back issues limited him to four games with the Reign, but he came back in 2019-2020 to split time with Ontario (9-16-25, plus-4, in 32 games) and Los Angeles (3-4-7, even, in 10 games). He skated in 54 games for Los Angeles in 2020-2021, going 10-13-23, minus-8, before splitting time once more in 2021-2022 between Los Angeles (5-2-7, minus-5, I 25 games) and Ontario15-23-38, plus-4, in 39 games). With 22 goals in 95 career games played to date, he has already shown the potential to become a 20-plus goal scorer in the NHL.
The odd thing about Vilardi and Roy in their performance to date is that combined, they have a combined seven goals on 28 shots overall (25.0 percent). One would not expect them to sustain that level of shooting efficiency. As for Vilardi, he will be making his first career appearance against Washington.
So far this season, 63 goalies have appeared in at least one NHL game. Jonathan Quick is the fifth-oldest of this group. He also has the second-most career starts of any active goaltender in the league, his 707 career starts trailing only Marc-Andre Fleury (917). He is the active leader in starts for one franchise, all 707 starts having come as a King. By season’s end, he is likely to surpass 20,000 shots faced and 18,000 saves in his career, and he could become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to reach 60 career shutouts (he has 56). He holds every meaningful statistical record in Los Angeles franchise history. With two Stanley Cups on his resume, he seems a strong candidate for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame when his playing career is over. Quick is off to something less than a “quick” start this season, though, with a 1-2-0, 3.87, .892 record in four appearances (one no decision). But while his numbers are poor, but his standards, they are better than those of his partner, Cal Petersen, who is 2-1-0, 4.97, .842. Quick is 9-6-0, 2.45, .913 in 15 career appearances against the Capitals.Three of the four games on the Kings’ five-game road trip to date were one goal wins, two of them in extra time – 5-4 in overtime against the Red Wings in Detroit and 4-3 in a Gimmick over the Predators in Nashville; their last road contest was a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
2. The Kings have been busy in the early going. Through Thursday’s games, no team had more games played than Los Angeles (six, tied with San Jose and Nashville).
3. Los Angeles has had issues in the defensive end, their 4.50 goals allowed per game the third-worst in the league through Thursday’s games. They have allowed 34.5 shots per game, eighth-most in the league, and have a 48.7 percent shot attempts-against at 5-on-5.
4. The Kings have enjoyed a measure of balance in scoring. Of 20 skaters to take the ice so far this season, 16 have recorded at least one point. Ten players have at least one power play point.
5. Los Angeles leads the league in power play chances per game thus far (5.33 chances per game); they have the third-highest shorthanded situations faced per game (4.83).The Caps scored four goals in the third period against Vancouver in a 6-4 win. Those are the only third period goals they have scored in third periods in five games to date.
2. After shutting opponents out in the third period in their previous two games, the Caps allowed three third-period goals to Ottawa (two of them empty-netters) in the 5-2 loss to the Senators on Thursday.
3. Washington has allowed at least one second period goal in each of the five games played so far (eight goals in all, fourth-most in the league).
4. The Caps have taken a lead into the first intermission twice in five games. They lost both.
5. Washington leads the league in credited hits per 60 minutes (33.60)
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Los Angeles: Brandt Clarke
Washington might be a veteran team, but Los Angeles has played only one rookie so far this season, defenseman Brandt Clarke. The Kings could have high expectations for the 19-year old, who was taken eighth overall in the 2021 Entry Draft, the third defenseman selected in that draft. Elite Prospects had this to say about Clarke before the 2021 draft – “He wants to make something happen every time the puck is on his stick, and he’s not afraid to push the play himself to see it through. Clarke’s brain and ability to process the movement of others on the ice to make his own reads is elite. He sees things that others do not, is patient with the puck, and allows the play to develop before he makes his decision.”
Clarke played two seasons in Canadian junior hockey, appearing in 112 games for the Barrie Colts and posting a scoring line of 17-80-97, plus-5. He bypassed minor pro hockey to gain a spot on this year’s roster and is one of 12 rookie defensemen to record at least one point so far. The Kings have measured out his ice time with care, Clarke averaging 13:40 per game in five games so far. His odd statistic going into this game…he is the only one of 20 skaters to dress so far this season for the Kings who has not been credited with a hit. This will be his first appearance against the Capitals.
Washington: Dmitry Orlov
Through five games so far, all six defensemen to dress for the Caps have at least one point. The trouble is that Dmitry Orlov has only one (an assist) despite averaging 21:40 in ice time per game, second among the Caps’ defensemen. He also has a team-low five blocked shots (tied with Erik Gustafsson, who plays almost six fewer minutes per game) and has been on ice for four even strength goals against, second-most on the team (John Carlson: 7). It is a slow start for Orlov, especially given that he was 1-2-3, plus-5 after five games last season. But slow starts are not uncommon for Orlov, either. In 2020-2021 he went without a point in his first ten games and had a minus-3 rating, and he was 1-4-5, minus-9, in his first 13 games in 2019-2020.
This season has been a bit different in that he was split up from his regular partner of last season, Nick Jensen, to pair up with John Carlson in the Caps’ last outing. It was not a disaster, Orlov going 0-1-1, even, in 22:45 of ice time, with two blocked shots and a takeaway, but his pairing with Carlson was interrupted at times as the Caps resorted to the old Carlson/Martin Fehervary and Orlov/Jensen pairings for some stretches. The Caps, notwithstanding their six-goal explosion against Vancouver, have had offensive issues, not surprising given the number of top-six forwards who have been injured or who are rehabilitating injuries. It would be helpful if Orlov could shake off the early season sluggishness that he has had from time to time in his career. He is 1-3-4, plus-1, in 15 career games against Los Angeles.
In the end…
This could turn out to be a special teams battle, given that the Kings have participated in ten special teams situations (combined power play and penalty kill) per game. Given that the Caps have at least one power play goal in their last three games and two in each of their last two contests (5-for-9 overall in their last three games – 55.6 percent), this could benefit the Caps, except that Washington has also allowed three power play goals in five shorthanded situations faced in their last two games. That the Caps are 33.3 percent on power plays on home ice (3-for-9) and 71.4 percent on penalty kills (5-for-7) makes this an interesting game in terms of the tension between the special teams. Caps fans hope it will end up being interesting in a good way.
Capitals 3 – Kings 2